SBD/Issue 19/NHL Season Preview

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  • NHL Season Preview: League Rides Wave Of Momentum Into Season

    NHL Drops Puck On '10-11 Season
    With Hurricanes-Wild Game In Helsinki

    The NHL season opens today "on the heels of an electrifying Olympic tournament, the continuing rise of charismatic young stars and a third straight postseason dominated by teams from hockey-steeped American cities," according to Jeff Klein of the N.Y. TIMES. There "will be challenges, but rather than symptoms of a league's struggles, they seem to be signs of growing strength." The NHLPA, "long rudderless and riven by internal strife, seems united again and close to ratifying the nomination" of former MLBPA Exec Dir Donald Fehr, who is "perhaps the most successful labor leader in sports in the last three decades." With Fehr in place, the union and management "can negotiate on relatively equal terms in talks to replace the collective bargaining agreement that expires" in Sept. '12. All NHL teams are "grappling with difficult personnel decisions dictated by the league's salary cap," but despite "dire projections in the economic downturn, the NHL has had a slight rise in revenue." Corporate sponsorship also is "up, and American television has come calling after two decades of indifference." Meanwhile, HBO is "fueling the run-up" to the Jan. 1 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic by following the Penguins and the Capitals "in only its second nonboxing '24/7' series." And ESPN and Fox are "expected to bid for cable rights against Versus, the rights-holder from 2005 through this season." The league's TV revenue is "expected to rise, perhaps substantially, from the roughly $75 million a year it gets from Versus" (N.Y. TIMES, 10/7).

    STEP RIGHT UP: The CP's Chris Johnston noted the NHL is opening the regular season in Europe for a "fourth straight year." NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said of the participating teams, "We're still at the stage where we take volunteers. And so we try to give the fans in the various cities attractive matchups, interesting matchups and over time our hope and expectation is that everybody will want to go and will get to go." Bettman noted that the games are "expensive to put on -- when you factor in travel costs and the price of buying out a team's home gate -- and don't generate much direct revenue." Meanwhile, Bettman acknowledged that there are a "number of cities with an interest in having an NHL team and hinted that Winnipeg is ahead of Quebec in the queue." Bettman: "Some interest is more realistic than others. If there's interest in a place that doesn't have an arena, it's not interest at this point that we need to focus on, without mentioning any names. The issue only becomes ripe if we're either moving a franchise -- which we're not currently planning on doing -- or we decide to expand -- which we're not currently planning on doing." Bettman also indicated that he "hopes to sit down at the bargaining table once Donald Fehr officially takes over" with the union. Bettman: "Obviously, we would like to (start negotiating) sooner and quieter if possible" (CP, 10/6).

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  • Blackhawks Revamp Marketing Campaign In Wake Of Cup Win

    Keith Discusses His Sacrifice In Last Year's
    Playoffs In New "One Goal" Spot

    The "style, tone and substance of a new TV advertising campaign for the Chicago Blackhawks have been completely -- and fascinatingly -- revamped in the wake of the team's winning the Stanley Cup last season," according to Lewis Lazare of the CHICAGO SUN-TIMES. The "One Goal" tag line "won't change" for the campaign, which was developed jointly by the team's in-house marketing department and Ogilvy & Mather, Chicago. The campaign breaks tonight during Versus' coverage of Blackhawks-Avalanche with three 30-second spots that "focus on three of the team's star returning players" -- C Jonathan Toews, RW Patrick Kane and D Duncan Keith. The spots are "beautifully shot," and each "shows one of the players practicing on ice." Blackhawks Senior Exec Dir of Marketing & Business Development Dave Knickerbocker noted that the spots include "super slow-motion segments." Lazare notes a "large part of the Hawks' marketing game plan for the past year -- as it will remain going forward -- has been to make the players more real and accessible to the team's large -- and rapidly growing -- fan base." The "most compelling -- and moving -- commercial stars Duncan Keith, who says he left seven teeth on the ice last season." After a pause, Keith adds, "I have 25 teeth left." The voiceover ad copy in each spot "suggests the Hawks have no intention of resting on their laurels" after winning the Cup (CHICAGO SUN-TIMES, 10/7).

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  • Circumstance, Connections Led To Consol's Deal For Pens' Arena

    Consol Energy Took Just 30 Minutes After Hearing
    Pitch To Reach Deal For Arena Naming Rights

    There were "three key factors" that contributed to Consol Energy acquiring the naming rights to the Penguins' new arena -- "circumstance, business connections and guts," according to Michael Sanserino of the PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE. PNC Bank President Sy Holzer introduced Consol Energy COO Nick DeIuliis and Penguins President & CEO David Morehouse a "few years ago." DeIuliis said that Holzer "thought it would be a good idea for the two to meet." Before then, Consol Energy and the Penguins "did not really have a relationship, save for maybe a few season tickets in the company's name." Morehouse said "six or seven" local companies were interested in obtaining naming rights for the new arena, which makes its regular-season debut during tonight's Flyers-Penguins game. Morehouse in November '08 "ventured to Consol Energy's corporate headquarters" in Canonsburg, Pa., to "present the plan" to Consol Energy CEO Brett Harvey, DeIuliis and others. After the sales pitch, Morehouse was "asked to wait," and "thirty minutes later, he had a deal." DeIuliis said that "the 'geographic footprint' for the Penguins' fan base is nearly identical to the area from which Consol Energy draws its employees." Even before Consol Energy Center "played host to its first event, DeIuliis had noticed two positive effects that he did not anticipate." First, the company name is "appearing on road signs, ticket stubs, maps, newspaper articles -- many more places than the facade of a building." Second, there is a "noticeable increase in Consol employee morale." DeIuliis: "They feel that they play a role with regard to making that happen" (PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE, 10/6).

    LET ME UPGRADE YOU: In Pittsburgh, Robert Dvorchak reported some of the "most dazzling upgrades" in moving from Mellon Arena to Consol Energy Center are "behind the scenes." Penguins co-Owner Ron Burkle "told the organization to identify the best locker room in the NHL, and he would bankroll a better one in the Consol Energy Center." Penguins VP/Communications Tom McMillan: "A team can't spend more on players than the salary cap allows, but there was no cap on making this a first-class facility for our players." The workout room and training facilities are "top-notch too, including a pool with a submersible treadmill so injured players can lessen the impact on injured legs." Penguins LW Chris Kunitz: "I don't think they missed a single detail" (PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE, 10/6). Also in Pittsburgh, Shelly Anderson reported the Penguins players "have given mostly two gloved-thumbs up as they adjust to their new home." The "one thing that needs some work is the quality of the ice" (PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE, 10/6). The AP's Alan Robinson reported "everything about the arena seemingly has been touched" by C Sidney Crosby, "right down to his No. 87 being the final two digits of its capacity." There is even a "cupboard in the team's expansive locker room, fitness area and recreation room to house his favorite cereal." Crosby: "For a brand-new building, it seems pretty homey right away. It's a little bigger than we're used to" (AP, 10/6).

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  • MLSE Unveils C$500M Maple Leaf Square Mixed-Used Development

    Maple Leaf Square Features Condo Towers, Hotel,
    Office Space, Apparel Store And Sports Bar

    Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment yesterday in Toronto unveiled Maple Leaf Square, a "gleaming property development project," according to Shi Davidi of the CP. The C$500M development "features two condo towers, a hotel, office space, a team apparel store and an acclaimed sports bar," and the unveiling "underlined MLSE's business savvy." The two condo towers "are already fully sold, office space completely leased and the area adjacent to the Air Canada Centre transformed from parking lot to money-making locale." Davidi noted MLSE has "taken some shots in recent months," as "many say the company knows how to make money, not build winning teams." By "continually missing the playoffs, MLSE is missing out on that annual windfall, something that became obvious when post-season revenue was removed from the budgetary process." MLSE President & CEO Richard Peddie said, "We have really reduced our dependency on playoffs. In the pre-cap era we averaged almost six playoff games a year, and you just do the math on that, that's a healthy dollar amount" (CP, 10/6).

    NAME CHANGE: In Calgary, Mario Toneguzzi reports the sign for Pengrowth Saddledome yesterday was taken off the arena “amid speculation a new name will be announced soon.” Speculation is that the new moniker “will be associated with Scotiabank.” Pengrowth’s 10-year deal for naming rights to the building expired in June. Flames President & CEO Ken King: “The subject of naming rights will become much more prominent in the next couple of days. I will not confirm any speculation.” King added that the media “will receive notification soon -- perhaps in the next day -- regarding the naming rights” for the venue (CALGARY HERALD, 10/7).

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  • Catching Up With CBC Sports Executive Director Scott Moore

    CBC Sports Exec Dir
    Scott Moore

    The CBC drops the puck on its coverage of the '10-11 NHL season tonight with a "Hockey Night in Canada" doubleheader led by Canadiens-Maple Leafs, which just so happens to be a dream ratings matchup for CBC Sports Exec Dir Scott Moore. After three and a half years at the CBC and a prior stint at Rogers Sportsnet, Moore knows full well what moves the needle for hockey fans in Canada, and he has his finger on the pulse of the emerging technologies necessary to stay relevant with fans. Staff Writer Erik Swanson recently spoke with Moore about his days as a producer, the possibility of another NHL team in Canada and common viewer complaints.

    How many hockey games would you estimate you watch in a given year? I probably watch between 50-80 hockey games a year, minimum.
    Best sporting event you ever attended: One of the best ones I've ever been at was the outdoor game at Wrigley Field, partially because I'd never been to Wrigley Field even to see a baseball game. Another top one would be the World Cup in South Africa.
    Finish the sentence: Don Cherry's suits are ... tough on the cameras.

    Q: What's your dream Stanley Cup matchup in terms of ratings?

    Moore: My dream Stanley Cup matchup in terms of ratings isn't possible, it's Toronto vs. Montreal. But from a ratings standpoint, from a Canadian standpoint, it would be Toronto vs. Vancouver, which many cynics in Toronto would say is equally improbable for other reasons.

    Q: So that would out-rate any U.S. team such as Pittsburgh or Washington?

    Moore: Well, certainly we've seen over the last couple of years that while hometown plays for us, the quality of the team and the stars involved also are important. So Pittsburgh and Washington are teams that we'd love to see. I think in the Eastern part of the country, Boston plays very well. Almost any time you put an Original Six team in like Chicago it's good. Ideally, no matter who is in, you want a close series and a series that goes to seven games.

    Q: With all the emerging technologies (3D, mobile, online, etc.), what do you see in the future of hockey viewing?

    Moore: Well we announced (last week) that we'll be doing a number of games in 3D, so that is certainly something that's on the near horizon. I would suggest that anything that makes the experience more immersive will be top of mind, so 3D obviously is that. Anything that is engaging from a multi-platform standpoint, or what I call a multi-appliance standpoint, will be something we'll look at. Mobile is certainly going to change the game with the new iPad and the new BlackBerry tablet. A lot of people are going to be watching these games on the go.

    Q: How soon do you think we will see another NHL team in Canada, and where will it end up?

    Moore: I would like to think it's close. I would like to think that it may happen within four years, but there are a lot of bridges to cross still. Certainly the signals are from the commissioner that if he had a first choice it would be to, as he says, right a past wrong. And that might indicate Winnipeg and Quebec.

    Q: What's the hardest part of your job? What keeps you up at night?

    Moore: Distribution, as to over-the-air, cable, online, mobile, and where that points to for the consumer and where they will want to consume those products. I don't worry about production. "Hockey Night in Canada" has historically been great at production, it's been a leader. But it's where the product lives and who controls those lines of distribution.

    Opinionated Cherry Still Drawing
    Reactions From "HNIC" Viewers

    Q: What do you hear the most complaints about from sports viewers?

    Moore: Sports viewers are incredibly passionate, and they love to complain about all sorts of things. We hear complaints that their team is not shown nationally enough. We hear complaints about Don Cherry and his viewpoints. I guess those are the two biggest things.

    Q: You ran your own production company between your time at Sportsnet and the CBC. How did the experience of working for yourself compare to your two major network stints?

    Moore: There was a lot less bureaucracy in my production company. (Laughs) I'm a producer at heart. I love to produce; I love to story tell. When I had my own production company I was producing my own shows, but at Sportsnet and here I am an executive and I have to be disciplined enough to let the guys who work with me -- the producers, who are excellent -- do that production without me. I get to watch as opposed to do.

    Q: Any desire to work for yourself again?

    Moore: About every other hour. (Laughs) There are advantages to working within a larger corporation -- you're able to do more. Everybody dreams of being their own boss, but even when you have your own production company, you end up actually with more bosses because you have so many clients. I love what I do. I love being at the CBC where you get a chance to produce great content that gets in front of 99.9% of Canadians. It's worth having a boss for.

    Q: Do you see yourself getting back into production in the future?

    Moore: I'd like to say yes, but I think the reality is it's a younger man's game. You have to be prepared to travel even more than I travel. You have to be prepared to eat, sleep and breathe it. I hesitate to admit that I may be past it.

    Q: What major sports business story are you following right now?

    Moore: A major story for us in Canada is following what happens in the next Olympic negotiation, both in the U.S. and Canada. That's of interest. And certainly, relating to hockey, the possibility of having another Canadian team in the NHL is something that we're extremely interested in.

    Q: How much is the NHL labor situation on your radar?

    Moore: It's certainly on our radar in that every pro sport has that issue. If you're looking at it from a near-horizon standpoint, the NFL has to get through their situation first, which will have an impact on the NHL. We would hope that both leagues will resolve their situation without any work stoppage.

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  • Versus Beefing Up NHL Coverage In Final Year Of Contract

     

    Versus will open its sixth season of NHL coverage by televising nine games in the first week of the '10-11 season, kicking off its coverage with a tripleheader today. The network’s coverage began with the Hurricanes-Wild game from Helsinki, Finland, at 12:00pm ET. That contest will be followed by Flyers-Penguins at 7:00pm and Blackhawks-Avalanche at 10:00pm. The week begins a season of increased NHL coverage on Versus, which sees its contract expire at the end of the season. The net will televise 79 regular-season games this year, 14 more than in '09-10, including 53 exclusive games, 26 bonus games and the Heritage Classic on Feb. 20. Versus is adding pregame shows before 30 game telecasts and is bringing in former players Dave Maloney and Mike Milbury to its “Hockey Central” studio show, alongside guest analysts Darren McCarty and Aaron Ward. “We’re taking our coverage to a level we’ve never seen before,” said Exec Producer Leon Schweir. “It’s a combination of knowing people are watching and knowing how we can better serve them.”

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  • NHL Media Notes: Winter Classic Could Help League In TV Talks

    Capitals-Penguins NHL Winter Classic Should
    Help NHL In TV Rights Negotations In Offseason

    YAHOO SPORTS' Sean Leahy wrote with the NHL's TV deals expiring after this season, the league is "putting all of its chips in and banking on a mega-rating" for the Jan. 1 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic featuring Sidney Crosby's Penguins and Alex Ovechkin's Capitals. Leahy: "And they'll get it. Easily." Even before the NHL and HBO announced a "24/7" series around the game, the Winter Classic "would attract the casual and non-hockey fans because of its uniqueness and, especially this year, star power." Leahy wrote Jan. 1 "isn't what it used to be for college football, as hockey is beginning to own the day; and what better way to stamp your arrival than by bringing the superstar draw?" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 10/6).

    BUSY SATURDAY: In St. Louis, Dan Caesar noted the Blues regular-season opener against the Flyers and the Colorado-Missouri college football game are "set to be played simultaneously Saturday night, leading to some channel shuffling to accommodate both." KMOX-AM "has the rights to each game and will air hockey," with the Missouri game going to KFNS-AM. The TV situation, in which FS Midwest "has the rights to both, is more complex." Colorado-Missouri "will air on secondary" FS Midwest channels in the St. Louis market and in Cape Girardeau, Mo., while all FS Midwest subscribers in those markets and throughout Illinois will get Flyers-Blues "on the normal" FS Midwest spot. Outside the St. Louis area, the Blues game "will air on the regular" FS Midwest slots on DirecTV and AT&T U-Verse (STLTODAY.com, 10/6).

    MANY STILL IN THE DARK: The GLOBE & MAIL's Bruce Dowbiggin reported new channel Sportsnet One as of yesterday afternoon was "rumoured to be adding Bell TV, the satellite carrier, to its roster of Rogers, Shaw Direct and Cable, Telus., Novus and Cable TV of Camrose." However, customers of Cogeco, Videotron and "smaller carriers are still not going to have access to the considerable NHL schedule Rogers has dedicated to their new channel." Rogers was "hoping pressure from disgruntled viewers missing their team's games would put pressure on the carriers, not back on themselves," but if the "standoff continues long into the season, disgruntled will be one of the polite words to describe the wrath of hockey fans denied their home team." Meanwhile, Dowbiggin rates the local broadcast teams for the six Canadian NHL teams (GLOBESPORTS.com, 10/6).

    GOING OFF THE AIR: The CBC has cancelled online Punjabi-language NHL broadcasts. The net began airing Punjabi commentary during the '08 Red Wings-Penguins Stanley Cup Final "to enthusiastic response." CBC Head of Media Relations For English Services Jeff Keay said that it was a "'successful experiment' but not one the beleaguered corporation can sustain 'given current resources.'" The cancellation "follows deep staff and program cuts at the CBC," which faced a C$171M "deficit last year" (CP, 10/6).

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  • NHL Teams With Spider-Man Creator For Superheroes Project

    The NHL and comic book creator SLG Entertainment today announced a partnership to form Guardian Media Entertainment LLC. SLG is led by Stan Lee, creator of Spider-Man, Iron Man and X-Men, among other comic superheroes. The Guardian Project will encompass the creation of 30 characters (one for each NHL team) as part of a concept that incorporates various NHL elements but is not set in the world of hockey. The 30 superheroes, created by Lee, Jake Shapiro and Tony Chagrin, will have special powers representative of each team and city and will be unveiled during the NHL All-Star Game in Raleigh on Jan. 30 (NHL). MEDIAWEEK's John Consoli reports the launch "will be supported with promotional campaigns, sponsorship activities and merchandise sales." NHL sources indicated that the deal "has been in the making for more than a year" (MEDIAWEEK.com, 10/7).

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  • NHL Teams Drop Cartoonlike Logos In Favor Of Traditional Look

    Several NHL Teams Are Going More
    Traditional With Logos, Jerseys

    The Sabres, Islanders and Canucks have introduced new jerseys for this season, "part of a wider trend over roughly the past three years, away from the memes of the 1990s and early 2000s -- cartoonlike logos or snarling animals that were often rendered in black or teal," according to Klein & Hackel of the N.Y. TIMES. The "widely reviled" Buffaslug crest, which had adorned the front of the Sabres' uniforms since '06, is out this season. The Sabres, "celebrating their 40th anniversary, will now wear a version of their original uniform, a crest with a bison and crossed swords." In addition, the Islanders' succession of "oddly designed, strangely colored jerseys has also ended, with a return to the simple design of their original uniform." The Canucks, also celebrating their 40th anniversary, "have brought back their original crest and colors in a uniform design that fuses the old." Other teams, like the Capitals, Coyotes and Wild, "have gone to a traditional look in recent seasons." The Penguins "added a 1960s-vintage uniform, made popular in the first Winter Classic game on New Year's Day 2008, as a permanent third jersey," and the Flyers "have dropped a black jersey and gone back to their early-'70s orange." NHL Exec VP/Marketing Brian Jennings said that team apparel sales "account for 50 percent of retail licensing revenue," and that a "change in a team's uniform usually bumps sales" about 20%. Sabres Managing Partner Larry Quinn said that the team's new third jersey -- a "traditional design in the Sabres' original royal blue, with 'Buffalo' spelled out across the chest in the script of the old Buffalo Bisons" -- is "selling at twice the rate of the team's regular jerseys," though he would not give exact figures (N.Y. TIMES, 10/6).

    MORE JERSEY CHANGES: ESPN.com's Paul Lukas noted the Blue Jackets "will unveil a third jersey Nov. 26," which reportedly will feature a "cannon as the central part of the main logo." The Ducks "will be unveiling an alternate jersey Nov. 26," which reportedly will feature the team's "webbed D logo as a jersey crest, an idea that's long overdue." The Devils "will once again trot out their red and green throwbacks for one game," and the "date they've targeted is March 18." Meanwhile, the Kings have a "very nice-looking gold throwback," and the Penguins "will have a throwback" for the Jan. 1 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic against the Capitals. There is "no confirmed design yet," but sources said that the design will include the team's "original skating penguin." The Stars "have flip-flopped the designations of their road and alternate jerseys," and the Thrashers "have announced their third jersey -- probably the worst look in the league -- will be worn for Friday home games" (ESPN.com, 10/6).

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  • Whale Of A Tale: Howard Baldwin Returns To Hartford Hockey

     

    More than 35 years after Howard Baldwin helped turn Hartford into a hockey town, he is back and trying to do it again. The entrepreneur has owned part of four NHL teams, including the now-defunct Whalers from ’71-88, and last month assumed operational control and a sizable stake of Hartford’s AHL team with plans to rebrand it as the Connecticut Whale. Much has been made of Baldwin’s desire to return the NHL to downtown Hartford, which has been without a major professional sports team since the Whalers moved to North Carolina in ’97, but he knows there’s still plenty to do before the league will even consider the idea. “The future is what it is,” Baldwin said yesterday. “But the most important thing you have to remind everybody is that it’s a great market.” While stalled talks for a new arena ultimately drove Peter Karmanos and the Whalers out of town, the team’s nickname and logos have become a bit of a marketing sensation. Thirteen years later, Whalers jerseys can be found on NHL.com and in 2K Sports’ “NHL2K10,” and Baldwin acknowledges the power of that brand. Rebranding the AHL franchise from the Hartford Wolf Pack to the Connecticut Whale gives Baldwin and his Hartford Hockey LLC group a marketable, not to mention lucrative, start. “We’ll have a major merchandising program here like we always did,” Baldwin said. “We’ll be opening a store, and the rebrand will be sometime in the next two months. It will be a rebrand to The Whale; it will be a big night.” Tying the AHL franchise back to the city’s NHL legacy “figures prominently in all of our plans,” Baldwin said, noting the still-popular Brass Bonanza theme song will be prevalent in the rebrand.

    BIGGER THINGS IN STORE? The former owner treads carefully when asked why he chose Whale instead of Whalers, the product of a sensitive debate about who owns rights to the iconic nickname. “There’re a lot of different viewpoints as to who owns what,” Baldwin said. “Our attitude is that it belongs to the people here. It doesn’t belong to me, it doesn’t belong to anybody but the people here. The NHL has been extremely cooperative and supportive of what we’re doing here. We just felt it’s more effective to start with a new, fresh brand and start clean. We still sell a ton of Whalers stuff here, and we buy through the NHL licensees almost like a 31st franchise.” The league confirmed that Whalers merchandise remains popular though it would not disclose specific figures. That brand appeal of the Whale, soon to be the most recognizable name in minor league hockey, is one of the reasons the Hollywood producer gets so excited when discussing his newest venture that has him back in Connecticut for the first time in more than two decades. “From ’88 to a year-and-a-half ago, we have been living in L.A. and came back here because our roots are back here,” Baldwin said. “We also have a great passion for this franchise because we started it.” The NHL no doubt will have one eye on Hartford when the puck drops later this month, and Commissioner Gary Bettman knows Baldwin’s enthusiasm can be infectious. “Howard Baldwin's love of the game, and of the game in Hartford, seemingly is without limit,” he said.

    LITTLE BY LITTLE: Baldwin knows any dream of top-level hockey returning to Hartford in the near future is just that, which is why he preaches patience. “I’d like to see things made right by Hartford and in Connecticut,” he said. “And first thing is not so much the NHL; the NHL is a great league and they’re doing their business, but the AHL also is a great league. The most important thing is to get the thing humming back here in the AHL.” Baldwin adds, “They’ve done that in Winnipeg. They have an AHL team in Winnipeg that’s doing great. When people talk about Winnipeg they say, ‘That’s a great market. Look what they’ve done in the AHL.’ … That’s the important thing: to build the market back. All of that is gone. All of that we have to put back.” The problem surrounding the lack of a new arena in Hartford -- the downtown XL Center is 35 years old -- still exists. Yet Baldwin insists a replacement isn’t on his, or the city’s, radar. “I think the arena right across the street is still a terrific facility,” he said. “When you come into the city, it looks great. What it’s lacking is people. In order to get people down here, you’ve got to have fun things to do. The XL Center used to be the hub of all entertainment in Connecticut. And now it isn’t. We have to put that back quickly.” Baldwin and his team are off to a quick start, capitalizing on fan excitement about the rebrand. “We took this team over two weeks ago when they had sold about 600 tickets,” he said. “They did very little because they didn’t try. Just in seven days, we sold about 4,000 tickets. It’s all there, but is it going to be there instantly from day one? No, probably not. If we can do 7,000-8,000 people at the opener and build off that, we’ll be thrilled.”

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  • NHL Franchise Notes: Bettman Says Panthers Will Not Relocate

    Commissioner Feels Speculation That Panthers
    Are Relocation Candidate Is Unfounded

    In Ft. Lauderdale, Harvey Fialkov noted NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman Tuesday reiterated that the Panthers are "staying put in Sunrise and have never been a candidate for relocation." Bettman: "I'm not sure where this speculation comes from, but it's completely unfounded." Bettman is "confident that GM Dale Tallon can turn around the franchise like he did in Chicago" (SUN-SENTINEL.com, 10/5). Meanwhile, Fialkov reported the Panthers are "pacing toward 10,000 season tickets for the first time in half a decade." The team has launched the new "Cat 5" season-ticket promotion. The campaign is being "activated through radio, online and throughout all of the Panthers' internal media properties including the SSE Media Network" (SUN-SENTINEL.com, 10/4).

    DARK NIGHTS AHEAD: The GLOBE & MAIL's Stephen Brunt noted in a city where "every hockey story of the past few years has had a dark undercurrent, in a place where the economy is still reeling, at a time when all professional sports are seeing empty seats where there were none before, dealing with both the shortage of recreational cash and the ever-better options for watching at home, the Coyotes would have to be remarkable indeed to stand out in a place where they are but a peripheral part of the culture." This season there "figure to be a lot of lonely nights, no matter how good the team is, enough empty seats to give the mysterious" prospective buyer Matt Hulsizer "pause." Brunt: "Funnier things have happened in pro sports than a sudden outburst of hockey mania in a place where every indicator points down. Though not many" (GLOBE & MAIL, 10/6).

    GROWING PAINS: In Minneapolis, Michael Russo writes the Wild are "at a crossroads." Russo: "Never, in its decade-long history has this organization been so under stress." The team "for the first time" is "working tirelessly to fill its arena." Wild COO Matt Majka said that the Wild's season-ticket base has "decreased, although he won't say by how much." He added that the team "would still be top-six in the NHL." Majka: "I hope we get back to a place where we have [a] season-ticket base that is maxed out, but right now these are learning lessons that will serve us in the future" (Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE, 10/7).

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  • Canadiens Top NHL Club For Facebook Friends, Twitter Followers

    The NHL has 857,830 Facebook fans on its official page heading into the start of the '10-11 season. The league's official page ranks below the NBA, UFC, NFL and NASCAR, but ahead of MLB, the WNBA, ATP World Tour and PGA Tour. The Canadiens top all NHL clubs for Facebook friends with 473,174. The Thrashers have the fewest Facebook friends among NHL clubs, and they have fewer followers than several AHL clubs. On Twitter, the NHL has 440,605 followers, putting them below the NBA, NFL and MLB but ahead of the WPS, WNBA, UFC, NBA D-League and PGA Tour. The Canadiens are also the top NHL team in Twitter followers at 72,362. Listed below are Facebook friends and Twitter followers for each NHL team, as well as for the NHL's official page/feed. All figures are as of yesterday (THE DAILY).

    RANK
    TEAM
    FACEBOOK
    FRIENDS
    RANK
    TEAM
    FACEBOOK
    FRIENDS
    NHL = 857,830
    1
    Canadiens
    473,174
    16
    Hurricanes
    72,386
    2
    Blackhawks
    379,719
    17
    Oilers
    67,942
    3
    Penguins
    322,077
    18
    Devils
    63,028
    4
    Red Wings
    295,633
    19
    Senators
    46,547
    5
    Flyers
    281,733
    20
    Flames
    42,336
    6
    Bruins
    271,890
    21
    Ducks
    41,148
    7
    Canucks
    227,655
    22
    Stars
    37,509
    8
    Capitals
    171,796
    23
    Lightning
    34,198
    9
    Maple Leafs
    166,583
    24
    Predators
    21,611
    10
    Avalanche
    121,564
    25
    Coyotes
    21,099
    11
    Sabres
    116,742
    26
    Kings
    19,726
    12
    Sharks
    105,564
    27
    Islanders
    18,692
    13
    Rangers
    85,350
    28
    Blue Jackets
    16,251
    14
    Blues
    78,471
    29
    Panthers
    15,369
    15
    Wild
    74,427
    30
    Thrashers
    8,216
    RANK
    TEAM
    TWITTER
    FOLLOWERS
    RANK
    TEAM
    TWITTER
    FOLLOWERS
    NHL = 440,605
    1
    Canadiens
    72,632
    16
    Kings
    14,173
    2
    Penguins
    44,639
    17
    Blues
    13,643
    3
    Blackhawks
    44,607
    18
    Stars
    12,247
    4
    Canucks
    38,448
    19
    Ducks
    12,137
    5
    Red Wings
    33,899
    20
    Wild
    11,467
    6
    Flyers
    25,801
    21
    Lightning
    10,912
    7
    Maple Leafs
    21,425
    22
    Avalanche
    10,310
    8
    Capitals
    20,362
    23
    Senators
    10,069
    9
    Bruins
    19,488
    24
    Blue Jackets
    8,435
    10
    Oilers
    19,400
    25
    Hurricanes
    8,195
    11
    Rangers
    17,519
    26
    Coyotes
    7,338
    12
    Sharks
    17,455
    27
    Panthers
    6,947
    13
    Flames
    17,353
    28
    Thrashers
    6,708
    14
    Sabres
    14,596
    29
    Predators
    6,231
    15
    Devils
    14,407
    30
    Islanders
    5,362

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